The British pole vault record-holder is feeling ready for Rio as she puts a difficult Olympic cycle behind her

For Holly Bradshaw, then competing under her maiden name of Bleasdale, the lead up to London 2012 was “a dream”. Her road to Rio has not been so smooth, but the British pole vault record-holder says the tough times have made her stronger and she’s now in a great place as she looks to build on her Olympic performance of four years ago.

Since her sixth place finish on her Olympic debut as a 20-year-old, Bradshaw has battled a back problem and other associated injuries and while it hasn’t been easy, the Cardiff-based athlete, who placed seventh at last year’s IAAF World Championships during her first summer of competition since 2012, says she wouldn’t change a thing.

“It has been difficult,” she admits. “There have been not many highs and a lot of lows so it has been really tough to stay focused and stay with the process, but it makes it all worthwhile when you have performances like last year in Beijing and now when I’m coming up to my second Olympics.

“I don’t have any regrets,” adds the 24-year-old. “I wouldn’t wish that I wasn’t injured because what I have learnt from all those injuries has made me grow up and be more mature and more professional. I’m definitely a different athlete now to the one I was in London. That just makes me a stronger athlete and puts me in stronger contention when I’m out there competing.”

Bradshaw was just a single centimetre off her outdoor PB in clearing 4.70m in Beijing, while her British record stands at 4.87m – a height she cleared indoors in January 2012.

Her season’s best of 4.65m for fourth at last month’s Monaco Diamond League puts the the Scott Simpson-coached vaulter 15th on this summer’s world rankings and Bradshaw knows that means she can go into the competition slightly under the radar.

“I’m really excited,” she says. “I love competing at major championships, it’s what I do all the training for, it’s the environment I love the most.

“I’m trying not to put too much pressure and expectation on myself because nobody really expects anything from me,” she adds, with the top end of the rankings occupied by USA’s Sandi Morris with 4.93m and home favourite Fabiana Murer with 4.87m. “Pole vault this year for women is a really high standard and I know when I’m at my best I can compete with that.

“I’m really confident and mentally in a great place. I just need to get out there and fight with the other girls.”